Harvey (London)

In Harvey’s Syphilis Story, he talks about how his intuition told him to get tested just in case, as he had no symptoms at all. About 5 or 6 years ago, I went to Dean Street Express for a sexual health check-up as something felt off. I usually test regularly for STIs and HIV as well, but something motivated this particular check-up.

Also, I hooked up with a random guy, and he worried me a bit. I’m not entirely sure, but I think he came to my house after hooking up with someone else or a group of other guys.

I booked an appointment to return for treatment, which was fine. I only had to tell another guy who took the news well. He underwent STD testing and treatment, and we reconnected after ensuring he was tested and I was fully treated and no longer infectious.

I didn’t learn much about syphilis until I was diagnosed with it.

The only knowledge I had was from the film The Libertine, set in the late 1600s, where Johnny Depp’s character John Wilmot has it.

Gerald (London)

In Gerald’s Syphilis Test Story, he talks about how he didn’t notice the chancre sore on his finger as a symptom of syphilis; he thought it was a wart. 

I found out I had it because a guy I had been dating tested positive.

I was seeing other guys, but he wasn’t, and I was sure he had contracted the infection. He had been more reluctant about condomless sex. I was on PrEP, so for me, it was normal, but he wasn’t and was a lot more cautious, so it seemed unlucky.

We’d stopped seeing each other just before because I was too uncommitted. It was nice of him to let me know he’d got syphilis, but that was the last time we were in contact, I think.

The STD treatment was an injection in each buttock, and it was a bit more painful than the gonorrhoea treatment. I remember feeling bruised and sore for a couple of days, but after that, it passed, and I returned to normal.

Mark (Wales)

A sexual health clinic reached out to me regarding someone recently diagnosed with HIV, urging me to undergo exams. So, I scheduled a half-day off work.

This marked my first visit to a sexual health clinic in 2007 in Wales and my first experience with STIs. I felt nervous.

The waiting room was a little strange because I was the youngest guy there, as at the time, there was a surge in men over 50.

The waiting room was huge, and it felt bigger because there were only 10 people in there. I had to drink a few glasses of water before giving a urine sample.

I then had to wait to be called, which felt like ages! When I was finally called in, I had swabs and blood taken. I also got hepatitis A and B vaccinations. 

Three weeks later, I got my results – I tested negative for HIV but positive for syphilis. I had no symptoms at all. I had to start treatment for syphilis, but they couldn’t give me the injection of penicillin, so they gave me tablets instead. And I received another vaccination, leaving with a letter confirming everything was fine. Since then, I’ve made it a habit to get checked regularly.

Javier (Spain)

I was raised in the countryside in a village in Spain before moving to London. When I was 22, I went for a full physical examination, which included reports for HIV and STDs. 6 months later, at 23, I got my first official boyfriend. 

We continued having sex without condoms on different STI occasions. Not long after, I noticed I had discharge coming out of my penis. I had a sore on the head of my penis, and it was very itchy. The whole thing was very traumatic because I had no idea what was happening. At the sexual health clinic, they informed me that I had contracted syphilis, gonorrhoea, and chlamydia simultaneously.

I got treatment over three consecutive weeks. My ex was 27 at the time. He had never tested for HIV or STIs before, and I learned a very valuable lesson from this experience. It’s so important to talk to your long-term partners about their sexual history. It’s up to you to take care of your sexual health. And the responsibility should never be in anyone else’s hands.